Michael Patton has an interesting article over at Parchment and Pen entitled Evangelicals: We Can and Must Distinguish Between Essentials and Non-Essentials Better.
I want to take a moment to look at some of these and offer my thought to them as someone who is a liberal Christian. Two things struck me as curious.
Essential for Salvation: I agree with Patton’s overall assessment of what is essential for salvation.
Essential For Historic Christian Orthodoxy: My issue here is “A belief in the inspiration and authority of Scripture.” I would need a definition of “inspiration and authority of Scripture.” Do I believe that Scripture is “God breathed”? Without a doubt. Do I believe in inerrancy? No, I don’t, but I’m in pretty good company on that one.
Essential For Traditional Orthodoxy: This also had a point that threw me for a loop. Under the sub-heading Protestant Distinctions, Patton writes, “General belief in the major pronouncements of the first seven ecumenical councils (325-787 AD).”
Let’s look at the major pronouncements of the first seven(I have bolded those areas of disagreement within Evangelical denominations):
- First Council of Nicaea: Arianism condemned, the Father and Son are of the same essence (homoousis), adopted original language of the Nicene Creed, fixed date of Easter.
- First Council of Constantinople: condemned Arianism and Macedonianism
- Council of Ephesus: condemned Nestorianism and Pelagianism, proclaimed the Virgin Mary as the Theotokos (“God Bearer“)
- Council of Chalcedon: Hypostatic Union (Christ is fully human and fully divine)
- Second Council of Constantinople: condemned the Three Chapters
- Third Council of Constantinople: condemned Monothelitism and Monoenergism.
- Second Council of Nicaea: restored the veneration of icons
How can there be general belief of the major pronouncements of the first seven ecumenical councils when one major pronouncement isn’t acknowledged at all (veneration of icons) and the other one (Mary as God Bearer) isn’t widely accepted?
I think the time is coming where conservative and liberal Christians are going to need to have a real serious conversation.
Anyways, I have a lot of respect for Michael Patton and the ministry he does. His article is well worth the read.